September 25 is Earth Overshoot Day for 2009

Today is the day on which we begin consuming more resources than Earth is producing – and producing more waste than Earth can absorb – for 2009.

I hesitated before running this post because the Global Footprint Network will have its second Partner Network Conference – with the theme Footprint Forum: The Opportunity of Limits – in Colle di Val d’Elsa, Italy in June of 2010. With air travel consuming vast quantities of fossil fuels per passenger mile in contrast to other forms of travel (see the tables in this article) – and with air travel contributing a full 12% to humanity’s yearly carbon emissions, making it perhaps the largest single contributor to ongoing global climate change, I just wonder if gatherings of environmentalists in lovely foreign settings really make sense anymore. Webex anyone?

Still, what the Global Footprint Network has to say is very important.

What they have to say is this: Earth Overshoot Day comes on September 25 this year.

That means that, as of today, according to the calculations of the Global Footprint Network, humanity will have placed more demand on ecological services – from filtering CO2 to producing food, fiber and timber– than nature can provide in this year. From now until the end of the year, we will meet our demand for ecological services by depleting resource stocks and accumulating carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.

The Global Footprint Network reports that the global economic slowdown has slowed our use of world resources this year. In the past, Earth Overshoot Day steadily moved four to six days closer to January 1 each year. In contrast, the 2009 Earth Overshoot Day comes only one day later than last year. Earth Overshoot Day comes earlier each year, partly because Earth’s population continues to grow, and also because the standards of the developed world are spreading around the globe.

Earlier in this century, the Global Footprint Network contributed to what’s called the Living Planet Report, which explores what Earth offers versus what humanity feels it needs. In 2004, Global Footprint Network data suggested that the human species would need two planet Earths by the year 2050 in order to support us. More recent data suggests an even earlier date – 2030 – around the time that children born today will be entering the workforce.

Go to the Global Footprint Network for more about how they calculate the date of Earth Overshoot Day each year.

Or go to their Footprint Calculator and find out how many Earths are required to support your lifestyle.

Or listen to EarthSky’s 2007 interview with Mathis Wackernagel, president of the Global Footprint Network.

What else to do? My suggestion, once again, in the immortal words of Aretha Franklin: you better think.

Deborah Byrd